House prices up by more than 2%

London prices highest risers while Northern Ireland experiences biggest drop

UK house prices increased by 2.2 per cent between January 2012 and January 2013, according to the Office for National Statistics

The figure is down from the 3.3 per cent increase between December 2012 and December 2013.

Overall, the report suggests that house price growth continues to be relatively stable across most of the UK with growth of 2.4 per cent in England and 0.9 per cent in Wales, although there were declines of 0.2 per cent in Scotland and 5.4 per cent in Northern Ireland.

The increases in England were partly driven by a 5.5 per cent rise in London - excluding London and the South East, UK house prices increased by 1.2 per cent.

In January 2013, prices paid by first-time buyers were 2 per cent higher on average than in January 2012.

Jonathan Harris, director of mortgage broker Anderson Harris, said: "House prices continue to climb as far as the national average is concerned, but this masks significant regional differences. The numbers should therefore be considered with a large pinch of salt, useful as a very general indicator of where things are going but not the holy grail.

'Worryingly, first-time buyers are having to pay more for their first home. While homeowners will welcome higher house prices, those struggling to get on the housing ladder for the first time are unlikely to feel the same. First-time buyers still need a 20 per cent deposit on average but with more mortgages available to those with 10 per cent deposits, it is getting easier to get funding. However, if house prices continue to edge up, this is not going to help the situation.

"It is essential that the Chancellor uses tomorrow's Budget to assist first-time buyers further as this would help boost the housing market as a whole."